May 10, 2011

Chatz Brasserie, ParkRoyal KL: A Touch of Nyonya Influence by Debbie Teoh

Being an avid foodie, I must also confess to be having an obscene amount of cookbooks that can match those famous bookstores in Malaysia! I just love to eat, read or dream about gastronomic cuisines from all over the world. Food never fails to amaze me and while people admire movie stars, I on the other hand, admire chefs or cooks!

When I received a request to sample a preview of ‘A Touch of Nyonya Influence’ by Chef Debbie Teoh at Chatz Brasserie, PARKROYAL KL, I was ecstatic with joy! I am such a huge fan of Debbie since I purchased her cookbooks, ‘Nyonya Flavors’ by Star Publications and ‘Underwraps’ by Marshall Cavendish a few years ago! Nyonya Flavors is my most used cookbook and recipes there are truly amazing and fail proof. It is also a book that triggered my search for my Nyonya roots as I could relate the recipes there to my mother’s.

In addition to cookbooks, Debbie is a food extraordinaire as she contributes to a great number of popular food magazines such as Flavours and Feminine by Oriental Cuisine. She also represents Tourism Malaysia as a Nyonya Food Consultant. Debbie has been in the food industry for more than a decade and spends her free time providing private catering functions, cooking class, food styling and recipe testing for a vast amount of the F&B industry. This woman has endless talents… one of my utmost respected chefs… J (I feel like a kid all over again… blush…)

Meeting Debbie for the first time, our conversation led me to discover our mutual passion for food. She is a very meticulous chef and shares that she will not produce a recipe if a certain ingredient is unavailable. Debbie also confesses to personally ensuring all her food is tasted and approved by her own taste before serving to her guest! Such a perfectionist and I find myself admiring her even more.

Yes, I could go on for hours about Debbie (but then this would turn into an autobiography of Debbie Teoh… wink wink!), instead I shall start sharing her sumptuous meal that she prepared for us that night.

Nyonya Cuisine or Peranakan Cuisine is a cuisine with unique kaleidoscope of Chinese, Malay and other influences. Nyonya cuisine is well known for intricate and balance in the use of spices to produce a perfectly harmonious dish. The art of Nyonya cuisine used to be a compulsory training for young Nyonyas as intense training would ensure a prestige marriage for the Nyonya’s future husband and his family. The cuisine takes pride in meticulous skills as one would require cutting, slicing, pounding, blending and tasting skills to be able to produce the authentic dishes. Laborious and time consuming, patience is a must-have in a true Nyonya chef.

We started off with an undisputed agreement that this was one of the best Pie Tee we have ever tasted! There was nothing but rave reviews around the table about how perfectly crispy and crunchy the Pie Tee shells were. I have tasted a great amount of Pie Tees and even tried to make them myself. After tasting Debbie’s, I finally understood what makes a good Pie Tee!

Debbie’s version had jicama and carrot shredded painstakingly by hand into matchstick sizes and flavored with the real McCoy crab meat and chopped prawns. The filling was just perfectly sweetened with a savory balance. We sure had fun DIY-ing our Pie Tees and one of my friends even asked for more shells. The accompanying homemade sour chili sauce was refreshing and enhances the Pie Tees very well. Finishing a dozen of these would be a piece of cake! (For me lah…)

‘Hu Pio’ or Fish Maw Soup with Prawn Balls ignited memories of my mom’s home cooking. Comforting and soothing, this soup is actually a very popular soup appearing during Nyonya festival seasons. My mom makes this soup for daily consumption without the fish maw (too expensive and high cholesterol).

The soup has natural sweetness from cabbage, jicama, carrots, chicken bones, fish maw and delectable prawn balls. I love the prawn balls for its homemade texture and freshness. A must accompaniment to the soup is fried shallots and coriander. Something so simple but oh-so satisfying!

Debbie brought out a small bowl of fiery looking sambal and shared with us her must-have secrets to her childhood food. Sambal is an essential cornerstone of Nyonya cuisine and a meal is never complete without this accompanying dish.

Sambal ‘Kiam Hu’ or Salted Fish Sambal tasted heavenly delicious! A bit of this sambal really enhances the rice and totally changes the flavors of the accompanying curry. Deceivingly red, the sambal is not spicy for me but rather savory and deliciously addictive with crispy cubes of salted fish. I have to learn to make this!! (*Debbie, if you are reading this, I would love to learn how to make this!) J

Said to be borrowed from the Hainanese Chinese ethnic group, Kapitan Chicken Curry is another testament to the Nyonya kitchen. Every household has its blend of spices, and these spices have to be pounded till a certain texture to achieve the consistency of the gravy.

Lovely version from Debbie and this curry goes really well with the Sambal Kiam Hu like a match made in heaven! Redolent of spices, the gravy was luscious and the chicken was tender and well seasoned. I simply flooded every mouthful of rice with this gravy and sambal… hehehe!

Sambal Goreng or Creamy Lemongrass Sambal Prawns totally changes my perspective of sambal. The spices does not consist of chili, hence the color was a light brown rather than the fiery red color. Debbie quoted that not all sambals are red in color and this one in particular takes its colors from the spices with flashes of red from the red chili slices added in the cooking process. 

Creamy, earthy and topped with crunchy cashew nuts, the sambal is perfumed by kaffir lime leaves and small little ‘Belimbing Assam’ (a kind of tiny starfruit used in cooking). More rice please…

For veggies, we had a simple Steamed Lady Fingers served with two sauces of a sour bean sauce and a garlic soy sauce. It is crucial to choosing young lady fingers as the older ones tend to have more fibers that are rubbery. Out of the two sauces, I prefer the sour bean sauce. There is just a sour and sweet balance that I like with the bean sauce.

I was so satiated but when desserts arrived, I perked up instantly. Delicate small bites of Seri Muka were attractively presented in a Nyonya ware. I have to get one of these baskets.

Most famous for kuihs, Nyonya recipes are handed down from generations and are meticulously handmade with love. Debbie’s Seri Muka has two equal layers melded into a gorgeous natural hue of pandan green. First layer consist of creamy coconut glutinous rice tinted with blue 'Bunga Telang' and second layer is rich coconut pandan custard. I swear I ate about five pieces as it was simply perfect in my opinion! Soft and creamy, your hands are the best utensil to savor these little delicate kuihs. So shiok!!

I have not seen many O’Giou Jelly in my Nyonya cookbooks. I was told that this jelly has gone so ‘out of vogue’ nowadays. O’Giou is a refreshing jelly derived from ‘Ai Yue Pin’ gelatin (available at Bake with Yen) flavored with Calamansi limes. Topped with fine shaved ice, these wobbly jellies are so refreshing after a richly spiced meal.

Some people may think I have gone bonkers with this meal but I felt that I had truly savored a magnificent Nyonya feast that night! The memory of the Pie Tees, Sambal Kiam Hu and Kapitan Chicken Curry were definitely unforgettable for me. My verdict is that this promotion offers a unique opportunity to sample Chef Debbie's Nyonya touch in her dishes all under one stylish ambience at Chatz! J

Chatz Brasserie, Parkroyal Kuala Lumpur welcomes Chef Debbie Teoh our very own Nyonya connoisseur as its guest chef from 13th May till 3rd July 2011. Get connected to the Nyonya Heritage at Chatz Brasserie though lavish buffets, interactive cooking classes for kids and a la carte selections of Chef Debbie’s authentic Nyonya Cuisine. Some of the dishes to savor includes’ Ayam Buah Keluak’, ‘Lemak Udang Nenas and one of my all time favorite, ‘Roti Ayam’.

My sincere thanks to Ms. Mei Lan and Sid for this invitation.

Promotion runs from 13th May to 3rd July, 2011
Buffet Lunch priced at RM58++ per pax
Buffet Dinner priced at RM78++ per pax
Nyonya Hi-Tea priced at RM52++ per pax

During Father’s Day, 19th June, 2011, bring your family for a flavorful spread of Nyonya Cuisine, whilst kids get to become ‘Little Nyonyas’ and whip up some delicious dishes for their dad at the ‘Little Chefs’ Culinary Workshop with Chef Debbie Teoh. Father’s Day Brunch inclusive of cooking class for kids is priced at RM 65++ per adult and RM 32.50++ per child.

In addition, UOB, American Express and PARKROYAL Prestige cardmembers receive 20% discount off the Nyonya Cuisine promotion, as well as guests staying at PARKROYAL KL and PARKROYAL Serviced Suites KL.

Diners of ‘A Touch of Nyonya Influence’ will also be eligible to win a lucky draw prize of a stay in PARKROYAL Penang Resort, home to the eclectiv Nyonya culture.

For more information, do check out their facebook link:

Chatz Brasserie
PARKROYAL Kuala Lumpur
Jalan Sultan Ismail,
50250 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2782 8301


  1. Just give me the salted fish sambal, I can finish my whole plate of rice ^^

  2. hahahah I want the kurau fish sambal yum yum!